Lettuce, parking gear aboard SpaceX ship for Sunday launch

SpaceX's first try in January ended in failure when the rocket collided with the drone ship platform, after running out of the h
SpaceX's first try in January ended in failure when the rocket collided with the drone ship platform, after running out of the hydraulic fluid needed to power its steering fins

An experiment to grow lettuce in space and a massive parking station for future spaceships are aboard SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo capsule, poised for a Sunday launch.

The blast-off of the white, gumdrop-shaped spaceship atop the California-based company's Falcon 9 is set for 10:21 am (1421 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Shortly after launch, SpaceX will make a third attempt to land its rocket on an ocean platform, as part of CEO Elon Musk's vision of revamping the rocket industry by making expensive rocket parts re-usable instead of discarded in the ocean, as is the current standard.

Moments after launch, when the Dragon is on its way to orbit, the tall section of the rocket, known as the first stage, will ignite its engines and guide itself back to a floating barge in the Atlantic Ocean for an upright landing.

SpaceX's first try in January ended in failure when the rocket collided with the drone ship platform, after running out of the hydraulic fluid needed to power its steering fins.

During a second try in April, the 67,000-pound (30,000-kilogram) rocket managed to set itself down on the platform in an upright position, but tipped over and exploded seconds later.

SpaceX blamed a malfunctioning valve controlling the rocket's engine power for unsteady landing.

SpaceX vice president of mission assurance, Hans Koenigsmann, said company experts have learned from past attempts, but it would be hard to predict the chances of success on Sunday.

"You look at the data, you evaluate this and then you make a correction and that is ultimately how you succeed," he told reporters on Friday.

"The fact that we had two so far gives me confidence we have two problems that we solved."

Needed cargo

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of much-needed food, supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station, where two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut are living.

NASA's Scott Kelly and Roscosmos' Mikhail Kornienko are four months into their year-long stay in space. The space station commander is Gennady Padalka.

Right now, SpaceX is the only American company capable of sending cargo to space. Orbital Sciences' program is temporarily on hold, after one of its rockets exploded on the launchpad last year and destroyed its fully loaded Cygnus cargo carrier.

Russia's supply program also suffered a setback in April when it lost control of its Progress cargo ship and the unmanned capsule burned up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere a couple of weeks later.

The Dragon's cargo includes the first of two International Docking Adaptors, which are essentially parking spots that are meant to make it easier for a variety of commercial supply ships to latch onto the orbiting lab in years to come.

"Our dream is to have one common docking system," said ISS program manager Mike Suffredini.

"This system is really designed for automated docking if that becomes necessary," he told reporters.

"Particularly in contingency cases, trying to save a spacecraft."

Greens in space

Among the 35 science experiments on board is a type of greenhouse that will enable astronauts to grow their own lettuce in space.

A previous experiment at the allowed astronauts to grow red romaine lettuce, which was tested back on Earth for signs of dangerous space bugs, said ISS program scientist Julie Robinson. No dangers were found, she said.

This time, astronauts may get to sample the Tokyo Bekana cabbage—a bitter leafy green—that they grow.

"We don't have all the paperwork in place yet but we are quite hopeful that the crew will actually get to eat this cabbage after they grow it," Robinson told reporters.

"We are getting closer to that first bite of space lettuce."


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SpaceX capsule to deliver new parking spot for space station

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Jun 28, 2015
Thought I saw some flaring at the base early on that did not look normal.

Jun 28, 2015
My heart goes out to all who work on this program. Space will always be a very difficult business. Please keep pushing. Your work is so important.

I was however, somewhat perplexed by the handling of the live webcast. The announcers went silent, the live audio feed went silent, and they just cut the webcast off cold after the perfunctory "anomaly" comment. I was surprised that they don't have a better disaster response go-to at the ready for such a challenging live event. I would imagine that such a sophisticated technology brand as SpaceX would have better PR support at the ready. Too bad. I think it is just this lack that does a lot of harm to public perceptions. A good and timely response at a time like this can make a world of difference. Communications and perceptions are so important.

Jun 28, 2015
No lettuce for ISS crew for dinner tonight. If Russian "Progress" fails again they would have to eat their shoes. Very expensive dinner. What I am perplexed about is why this 50 years old rocket technology still fails all too often. maybe because they fired all talented rocket scientists and replaced them with Silicon Valley dreamer Billionaires.

After Elon is bored with this toy I am waiting for spacecar in vertical hypertube highway to the moon. You should like it as I do because you and me gonna pay for it as US taxpayers. That's Elon's flamboyant style of orthodox free market capitalism.

Jun 28, 2015
Seems as if their lettuce is now a salad.

Jun 28, 2015
I was however, somewhat perplexed by the handling of the live webcast. The announcers went silent, the live audio feed went silent, and they just cut the webcast off cold after the perfunctory "anomaly" comment. I was surprised that they don't have a better disaster response go-to at the ready for such a challenging live event. I would imagine that such a sophisticated technology brand as SpaceX would have better PR support at the ready. Too bad. I think it is just this lack that does a lot of harm to public perceptions. A good and timely response at a time like this can make a world of difference. Communications and perceptions are so important.


That's because they don't know the root cause yet and they're trying not to make problems for those who conduct the forensic investigation later. Others have the freedom to speculate, but NASA does not.

Jun 28, 2015
Space Lettuce!!
We are doomed.

Jun 28, 2015
Four years ago I wrote here: "Private companies will not deliver as Mr. Bolden wishes."

Space X is wasting taxpayers money. Musk's promises of cheap and boldly space exploration are based on his childhood dreams not actual capabilities. We lost four more years listening to Elon's false propaganda!

Properly founded NASA with its expertise, decades of experience and exploration philosophy is a much safer bet. So far instead of crunchy lettuce we got nice fireworks. Thanks Elon!

Jun 28, 2015
Ab, proper crisis response communications should never involve "speculation." It should be immediate, transparent, human, honest, and helpful for all involved. The public have very little understanding of space flight, it's benefits, potentials, risks, and technologies. All they hear about is the cost, which is always an easy target. This "anomaly" (wow, I hate that word) is an opportunity to educate about the realities and the enormous potential of space. They need to get their spokespeople some solid media skills or find a spokesperson who can come off as a real person who understands the regular guy's perspective and knowledge level. By these metrics the NASA press conference was almost useless. IMO, holding a press conference, but bringing virtually no new information is a bad idea.

Jun 30, 2015
What have you been doing the past four years, while eagerly hoping for a failure from SpaceX -- writing press releases for North Korea?

Did you take to your pen when two (government-run) NASA Space Shuttles exploded?

I didn't think so.


Sir, your rant is as explosive as SpaceX rockets. Elon Musk when asked why his company is so secretive about its technology replied "We don't want Chinese to get the knowledge how to build cheap rockets" LMAO

Well, this is what happens when somebody tries to build rockets cheaper than Chinese!
And did you know that Tesla received $2.4 bln in taxpayers money? They ended the 2013 fiscal year with $74 million loss, yet Musk as the CEO made a whopping $78 million in his own profits. And this is a privately founded company :):) He must be a genius, indeed...

SpaceX is still hoping to get humans to the ISS in 2017. Thank you kindly Elon but I'd rather ride the Russian Soyuz. Somebody's gonna die if we let this guy play with explosives!

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